The Continuation of a Fragmented Mobile Market

The mobile world continues to evolve. In fact, the definition of what is mobile continues to change as well. The addition of netbooks and iPads as well as the expected future evolution of ebooks is making mobile mean a lot more than just phones. If you do focus on just phones, it is interesting to see that evolution is occurring as well — especially for developers.

In talking with a person on my team that covered mobile development several years ago, the conversations invariably centered on the fragmentation in the mobile market as far as phones, tools, providers, and more. There was no standard way for a developer to create a single application that targeted all of the various systems.

Most of the time, the development platform and tools were determined by which service provider’s phones you were going to target. If you were targeting Nokia phones, you were likely to be programming to Symbian and using one of the Nokia platforms such as System 60. Qualcomm had BREW as a development platform that was among the most popular. There was Objective-C type development for Apple phones. You could use C# and such for Windows Mobile devices. Some phones would let focus on technologies like J2ME. Overall, there was no single solution, and most of the solutions required special libraries and lower level languages.

Michelle Megna, Site Manager of EnterpriseMobileToday commented today that “the mobile enterprise right now, and likely for next 2 years, is extremely fragmented, industry jargon for: everyone in the workplace is using different phones/devices running different operating systems.” Ironically, it is now several years later. Most phones are still locked to specific providers, and most still require specific tools and technologies to program to them.

The fragmentation has not really changed in that regard.

Unfortunately, that means developers might have to learn multiple tools and re-write their applications if they want to target multiple. There is no easy solution to hitting all platforms. It seems that most developers are simply selecting the platforms with the greatest opportunities and hitting them the hardest. It will be interesting to how this plays out. Early results show that the popularity of the iPhone has benefited well in getting applications. With the Android phones now outselling iPhones, it will be interesting to see if the number of applications getting developed follow suit.

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